As an optimist, I don’t feel optimistic for this year, this decade, this century. Sorry to sound so gloomy, but that’s how I view the state of the world today. In some instances, it seems like we’re moving backward and not forward. We’re not evolving, we’re devolving and this depresses me. All of our efforts, our feminist and civil rights movements…all that marching and campaigning and vociferating….and then you see a woman in Europe or in North America wearing a burka. In year 2016. Is this the fruit of our labours? Is this what all of our marching and protesting yielded? The wearing of a sexless, shapeless black sac covering the entire face and body from head to toe? It makes me want to weep. The West is not Saudi Arabia. To me, a burka-niqab woman is retrograde motion; it is the erasure, the undoing of all our efforts. The end of enlightenment and the return to the Middle Ages. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it.
I was an idealistic child who grew up in the idealistic 1960s. Nourished by the poetic songs of Simon & Garfunkel, the Beatles and Cat Stevens, to name just a few, I drew Flower Power and Peace symbols onto my sneakers. We will never know this kind of innocence again. We’ve entered a new age, and it’s not the age of Aquarius. More like the age of fragmentation and discontinuity. Something has ended. I feel lucky, no privileged, to have lived and loved the sounds and the scene of the 60s, 70s and 80s.
All that mattered back then were denim bell-bottoms, The Beatles and Paul Simon whose photo I would stare at on the Sounds of Silence album cover. Endlessly. Sitting cross-legged on the shag carpet in our downstairs rec room, I’d put the album on the hi-fi and sing along to The Sounds of Silence (Hello darkness, my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again…..the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls and whispered in the sounds of silence.)
Kids today are addicted to their telephones. When I was last in Lille, I walked into one of the bedrooms on a Saturday night to find 7 adolescents sitting in total silence, each one fixated on his/her own private screen. Ephemeral is the word that popped into my head as one of them showed me a Snapchat photo of a cat typing on a computer keyboard. Nearly half a century on, I can remember the lyrics from the songs of S&G, Cat Stevens and The Beatles….what will they remember?
Just last week an office colleague, who must be around 27 or 28 and who is equally enslaved by her telephone and by Facebook, showed me all the different smiley icons that one can choose from. “That’s really fascinating.” I said. Did she detect my sarcasm or was she too busy searching for a grumpy face…oh, sorry, that’s called an “emoticon”…to send to her boyfriend?
Having said all that, I am a fan of YouTube. I watch a lot of interviews and documentaries that, for obvious reasons, you’ll never see on the mainstream media channels. On YouTube you can also find all of your favourite songs from the past.